Wednesday, May 30, 2012

5/30/12: More Bears!

Training has been great the last few weeks.  I ran 90 miles the week of Ice Age and hit 90 miles last week as well.  The weather was amazing last weekend, and it was one of those rare times in DC when it is pleasantly warm (upper 70s, lower 80s) with zero humidity.

This last weekend I did a monster run out in the Shenandoahs.  I covered a little over 40 miles on basically the same route that I ran last year around this time.  I went up Buck Hollow to Mary's Rock, across the AT for about 10 miles, down White Oak Canyon, and back.  This time I made it all the way to the parking lot of White Oak Canyon.

Conditions were tough, and it got into the upper 80s and was very humid (especially earlier in the day).  I held up well though and felt great for almost the whole run.  I started overheating on the nasty climb up White Oak Canyon, but I kept it together by increasing the drinking, switching away from solid foods to Perpetuem, slowing down the pace a bit, doubling up on S-caps, and stopping a few times in mountain streams to cool off.

Buck Hollow happens to be where I saw the the mother bear and her two cubs last year and was charged by mama bear.  After about 39 miles of running, I was flying down the trail and feeling great.  I was rocking out to Party Rock Anthem (what else?) and pumped full of the end of long run adrenaline. 

I came across two hikers who stopped me, and the following conversation ensued:
  • Hiker: "Hey, just so you know, we just passed two bears a little way down the trail"
  • Me: "Are we talking adult bears? cubs?"
  • Hiker: "Oh, it was a mother and a cub"
  • Me: "Yeah, that's important information ... was the mother aggressive?"
  • Hiker: "No, not really.  I came on them and started jumping around to scare them away.  The cub ran up a tree and the mother ran away.  Then I waited around for 5 minutes for the mother to come back so I could take a video, but she never came."
  • Me: "Uhh, you shouldn't do that."
I came upon another group of hikers closer to the bear, and mama had come back by then.  Fortunately she was not aggressive at all and let everyone by.

But here is the moral of the story.  Usually I hate bear encounters, particularly those involving cubs.  This one was actually incredibly reassuring though.  If this idiot managed to not get eaten by the mother bear, I'm pretty confident I can make it through any bear encounter. 

Oh, and I also bought a bear whistle later that weekend.  So let that be a warning to all bears in the Shenandoahs.  Don't come near me.  I have a whistle.

Pictures from a recent run on and around the Potomac Heritage Trail

Pictures from the Mary's Rock

The views weren't great with the haze and humidity, so I took only these few pictures.  You can check out my post from last year for many more pictures that were a lot better:

And finally, I leave you with this awesome video of ultrarunners trying to set the world 100m record while running down a steep volcano.  You should skip ahead to abotu 5:30 when the action starts.  This looks insanely fun and makes me immediately want to find a volcano and run down it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5/17/12: D-Fitz Guest Blog Post!

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived!  Dylan is so awesome that he not only ran 50 miles with me but also wrote this hilarious write-up of the race.

Before getting to Dylan's award-winning prose, I will preface by saying that Dylan is far too humble, overstates my abilities, and understates his own.  Without further ado, enjoy:

As a long time reader and fan, it is an honor to be guest blogging. And as a fan of Will, it is an honor to be able to say that these crazy races are as hard as you would have imagined. Also tons of fun! But mostly really really hard. Except for Will, who was remarkably unfazed by my pedestrian pace. And I do mean pedestrian, as I will discuss.

This was my first ultramarathon and some of you might be wondering: why run 50 miles? I know that I wondered this exact question as a support crew member. Marathons are fun, but I was eager for a longer challenge. 50 kilometer races may seem cool, but they are for pretentious runners that just want to run slightly more than a marathon. This left me with one choice: go big or go home! But not too big, because 100 mile races are stupid crazy.

The race began like most races do – fighting off the excitement in order to keep a sustainable pace. We ran around some beautiful cross-country ski trails in the Southern Kettle Moraines and I lost all track of time and mileage. The temperature began around 60 degrees and didn’t increase too much. The pace began around 9 minute miles and slowed down considerably. Will wiped a single bead of sweat from his head.

After the ski trails, we entered the Ice Age Trail on which we ran west for a long time, turned around, came back, ran east for a long time, turned around, came back, and then finished. As we headed out west, I still felt great and was really enjoying my first trail race. We met our support crew at mile 24 after about four hours of running. Although my heart and lungs felt strong, my quads were starting to struggle from the constant rises and falls of the trails. My original plan was to get through 30 miles comfortably, struggle to make it to 40, and then find my way to the finish line. Unfortunately, this flawless plan had several flaws. First, it was harder to get through 30 miles than I had envisioned. Second, it was much much much harder to get through 40 miles than I had planned. Third, it was harder to get through 50 miles than I had imagined. Go figure. Will jogged easily.

I really struggled from miles 30 through 37. There are several hills along this section, my quads were really hurting, and my lower back began to tighten up. I knew that my legs didn’t hurt enough to threaten the race, but my back left me wondering whether or not I’d be able to finish. I tried to stretch a few times, but the tightness remained. Will yawned.

One of the many great things about running with Will is that he can serve as my running guinea pig. During this stretch of the race, I took in a lot of fluids and food and ended up feeling stuffed. Lucky for me, Will knows about stomach problems and diagnosed an S-Cap for me that really did help a lot. With the stomach problems taken care of, I could focus on the leg and lower back pain. My mind attempted to wander, but it was in vain as my thoughts kept returning to the realization that I was crashing and burning. But that didn’t seem to do it justice. I was hindenburging. Will took a single deep breath.

Mile 37 was akin to paradise. The support team was there and I got some crucial support: a pep talk from Hillary and a lower back rub from Rachid. This really did help boost my confidence and end my back tightness and the next few miles went really well and I was ecstatic to turn around at mile 40 and begin heading closer to the finish. Will shrugged his shoulders.

At this point, every step was getting us closer to the finish and I knew that I’d make it. Easy. 10 miles to go and we are getting into single digits. Wait a minute, isn’t that still 20% of the race.? Shut up brain! Just keep running. You’ll make it. Am I going crazy? Or am I just hindenburging. Will thought about eating races like this for breakfast.

Why am I doing this? Well, for the fans of course. During a painful Boston Marathon in 2010 in which I went out way too fast (it’s so much fun to run with Will that it’s hard to slow down), I really struggled and had to walk at a few points when my leg cramps were hurting the most. Each time I started running again, I got really good support from the fans. As it turned out, the night after the race, I had a dream in which I kept running because “I gotta do it for the fans!” I may not have fans, but I do have a support crew! Will thought about his blog readers.

The support crew arrived again in spectacular fashion at mile 43. It was really great to see them again to get a boost of motivation and back support before heading on our way. At this point, we were walking up every steep hill and most aid stations tended to be along road crossings. As a result, we would leave the aid station to boisterous cheers, run about 20 feet until we got into the trees and out of sight, and then start walking up the hill. Will thought about doing a training run later that afternoon.

We again hit the hilly section of the course from mile 43 to 47. The thoughts and songs that ran through my head during this section showed that I was improving. When we ran this section of the course from mile 33-37, all I could think of was the fact that I was hindenburging. On the way back, I kept singing “hurts so good/come on baby make it hurt so good/sometimes running don’t feel like it should.” At least it was a good pain at this point. In addition, Will and I also had a few rounds of “Higher and Higher” that are sure to keep any fatigued athlete montage-ing their way to the finish. Will sang AC/DC and “Higher and Higher” while I kept the pace slower and slower.

Coming out of the aid station at mile 47, I knew that in just a few short miles – about as long as the longest race I would have done in high school cross country – I would arrive at the finish. It was actually really fun to run this section. Despite the pain, knowing that I’d finish 50 miles did put several smiles on my face. I don’t know what pace we were running, but it was definitely slow enough to get a few smiles in. Will smiled because he loves running.

As we got closer to the finish, fans started appearing in small groups along the trail and I eagerly peeked around every corner hoping to see the finish. Finally, the finish arrived! I was moving so slowly at this point that I didn’t so much reach the finish line as it arrived at us. It was great to see the finish and the support team there with joyful smiles and hilarious signs. I definitely appreciate their support. And I hope they appreciate the fact that I did it for the fans.

In the end, we made it back to the dual start/finish area. As the bird flies, we technically traveled 0 feet. As crazy people run, we traveled 50 miles. All in all, it was a great day! But that’s the last time that I ask Will for directions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5/16/12: Ice Age 50 Pictures

So Dylan and I successfully completed the Ice Age 50!  It was an incredibly good time, but I will hold off on any more details since Dylan is going to be doing a guest post soon!  For those of you who remember Dylan and Danny's fine work from the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, you should be very excited.

What I will do is share some awesome pictures that the best crew ever took during the race.

Hillay and Rachid - super fans!

This was the first aid station where we saw our world renowned crew

I look inexplicably disgusted by Dylan appling sunscreen

Feeling good almost and almost halfway done!

Coming into the mile 30 aid station

Show me the fever!

Mile 37 and Mom and Dad Lewellen have arrived!

Look at this guy!

Hanging out and enjoying the scene

Jen told me to stop smiling

Doing some serious strategizing

Apparently my previous "not smiling" face was too sad, so I went for tough.  I did not succeed.

Back into the wood.  We would return to this aid station at 43.5.

Dylan's name is just too long to spell out completely

Back at the 43.5 aid station.  Dylan was getting the royal treatment from the crew!

Hey, where's my massage?

The fan base has grown for the finish!  Jen's Aunt Kim, Uncle Jeff, and cousin Lauren came from their home in Madison to witness the insanity.  Thanks so much for coming!

Victoriously approaching the finish

Some happy guys who don't have to run any more

Finishers got a belt buckle.  Who needs 100 mile races?

I'll let Dylan fully explain this one in his post, but he did it for the fans.

The crew was so tough and dedicated they got tattoos!

The family at the finish
Jen's hilarious sign

That's right.  No European miles here.

Hold it right there .... perfect!

1st place finisher wearing a sports jersey the entire race!

Beer in one hand and food in the other.  I dare you to find a happier human being.

This basically sums it all up.  We ran a whole lot, we had the best fans in the world, and we had tons of fun.

Thanks again so much to the crew and the fans.  And congratulations D-Fitz!  Welcome to the dark side.  You are now officially an ultramarathoner.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

5/10/12: More San Francisco!

I had the great pleasure of going for a hike with Brome and Rachel the day after my long run in the Headlands. Here are some pictures:

The hill in the middle is where we are eventually going

They kept on trying to run away from me.  Can't say I blame them ...

We are heading up towards the radio towers

Starting to get some great views!

Rachel and Danny at the top of the hill

After the first hill we went on over the second hill nearby

The trail was just a bit steep

Rachel started to get a bit camera shy

Aww, so cute

Golden poppys!

Rachel said these flowers keep hills from eroding.  Who knew?!

Heading down the back side of the hill

This was actually from another run I did through the city up to the Presidio

I have to say I was pretty jealous of all the great places they have in their backyard to run / hike.  It would also be inconceivably awesome to be able to hike with Danny and Rachel all the time.  Maybe someday ...